Remembering the Past, Honoring the Present

Local soldiers who died in the line of duty within the last year were among those remembered in Veterans Day ceremonies Thursday: 19-year-old Chris Mabry from Lauderdale County, 20-year-old Joshua Ladd and 25-year-old Matt Stovall, both from Neshoba County.

People from throughout the area poured out to remember not only them, but the selfless sacrifices of the thousands of other men and women of the military from the past and present.

"Because of the many patriotic Americans that we've had through the years, we do have the best nation that I know of," said guest speaker, Sen. Videt Carmichael.

Known as "Mr. Veteran," retired Congressman G.V. Sonny Montgomery said although many strides have been made in addressing veterans' concerns, there's still more to be done.

"I'd like to see us improve our medical care for veterans and maybe increase compensation and pensions for veterans," Montgomery said.

Others still in the military agree.

"If you don't honor what people have done in the past, I don't think you can really appreciate what you have to do in the future," said Capt. Jeff Dickman, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Meridian.

In honoring veterans, family members of those who have lost their lives in combat say the public needs to become more aware that freedom is not free.

"Yes, because the only reason we have the freedoms we have is because people are willing to go defend that freedom for us," said Frances Mabry, grandmother of Chris Mabry.

"I think it's important that they know who they are. We really don't need to forget them," said Nancy Carter, Chris Mabry's mother.

The special Veterans Day ceremonies in Meridian concluded with a parade through downtown.

Bands, cheerleaders and ROTC units participated, along with veterans themselves.

Veterans Day committee chairman, Bob Gray, said having young people involved was one of his goals. He explained why it's important.

"Because veterans are," Gray said. "It's not the Congress that gave you the right to vote. It's the veteran."

Veterans Day was first officially recognized by an act of Congress on June 4, 1926.